Dean Winchester/Castiel

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Pairing: Dean Winchester/Castiel
Alternative name(s): Destiel (common), Casdean, Deancas
Gender category: Slash, M/M
Fandom: Supernatural
Canonical?: Yes (one-sided as of season 15)
Prevalence: Very Popular
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Dean Winchester/Castiel is the slash pairing of Dean Winchester and the angel Castiel in Supernatural fandom, it is one of the main slash pairings in the fandom, and has over the years become a fandom juggernaut.


Castiel first appeared in the fourth season as an angel who saved Dean from hell.[1] While originally intended to be a minor character in the show, Castiel (and in particular his interactions and dynamics with Dean) was so immensely popular with fans that he was developed into a core member of the Supernatural cast.

Over the seasons that followed Cas and Dean grew progressively closer, and numerous comments were made about the two's relationship by characters within the show, from Uriel saying that Castiel "likes you" to Dean in season 4, to Castiel telling Sam that he and Dean shared a "profound bond" in season 6, to Meg referring to Castiel as Dean's "boyfriend" in season 7. In true Supernatural fashion, the show also featured a Fourth Wall-breaking episode in season 10 titled "Fan Fiction", which contained a school performance of 'Supernatural: The Musical' in which the women playing Castiel and Dean were a couple in real life. The show also featured many exchanges and moments between the two that seemed, subtextually, to hint at a mutual attraction (at least in the eyes of shippers). However, the show's creators and actors seemed content to feed fans' speculation and interest without actually making the ship textually canon (see Queerbaiting or Canon?)

  • Needs info about season 10 through 15.*

In season 15 episode 18, Castiel reveals to Dean of his deal with the Empty, which stipulates that it will be summoned and claim him if he experiences "a moment of true happiness". He then followed this up with a confession of his romantic love for Dean, shortly before a portal to the Empty opens and drags him into it. An explosion of fan reaction followed this event (see Reaction to Season 15 Canonization) with varying opinions: many fans were incensed at the showrunners' decision to kill Cas off immediately after his confession, especially given how it plays into homophobic tropes.


Fan Reaction

The LiveJournal community DeanCastiel was established hours after the first episode featuring Castiel aired on September 18, 2008.[2] As noted by the Supernatural Wiki, the first two Dean/Castiel fanfics were posted to fans' personal livejournals soon after: Up From Perdition by vain-chan with a timestamp of 11:59 pm that night and Lazarus Falling by rivkat with a timestamp of 2:49 pm the next day (give or take a timezone).[3]

When Dean and Castiel slowly became friends, the pairing gained a lot of fans. The pairing may also have attracted slash writers interested in the canon who had been uncomfortable writing the previous juggernaut pairings in the fandom, an incestuous pairing and an RPF pairing. Before Castiel's addition to the cast, slash options had been limited due to the show's very tight focus on brothers Sam and Dean. Since 2008 - the first time Castiel was shown on screen - Destiel has grown to become the most popular ship in the fandom. In 2014 on Tumblr it was even the most popular ship in any fandom.[4] As of 2016 it was the most popular ship on the multi-fandom Archive of Our Own[5] though it has been losing steam on Tumblr, where it was ranked third in 2015[6] and fourth in 2016[7].

On 9th of August 2021, Destiel became the first ship on Ao3 to reach 100,000 fanworks.[8]

Wank and Ship Wars

See also Wincest vs Destiel

In the earlier years of SPN fandom after Castiel's introduction, there was been a considerable amount of wank related to Destiel and the addition of Misha Collins (Castiel) to the main cast, possibly reaching a peak in 2013. Destiel fans have pointed to the intense onscreen sexual tension between the two characters, as well as their devotion to one another over time, as evidence that Destiel is, will be, or should be canon. However, officially, Destiel is not canon, and other fans were not impressed by Destiel fan arguments; at the same time that some fans were arguing that Destiel would be canon, others were complaining about queerbaiting on the show. Meanwhile, fans of J2 and Sam/Dean have been involved in a long ship war with Destiel fans.

In a 2013 blog post, Exorcising Emily discussed why the popularity of Destiel is downplayed by Wincest shippers, despite evidence suggesting it is now the biggest ship in the fandom (or any fandom):

The systematic dismissal of the Destiel fandom has primarily been led by fans who viewed the introduction of a third lead as a threat to what they believe the core value of the show is: the relationship between brothers Sam and Dean (whether sexual or familial). These same people organized fan campaigns to have Castiel killed, to have Misha Collins fired from the show, and created a false narrative in which they portrayed Destiel shippers as sending hate and threats to actress Shannon Lucio, who was announced as a love interest to Castiel prior to the season beginning.[9]

Archive of Our Own and the Preponderance of Destiel

Relative popularity of Dean/Castiel vs. Sam/Dean on AO3, 2010-2016

Destiel's rise in popularity occurred during the early years of Archive of Our Own, so it is perhaps no surprise that AO3 holds most of the popular Destiel fanfiction, such as Twist and Shout and I Cleanse The Mirror. According to a August 2013 survey by centrumlumina, Destiel was second only to BBC Sherlock's Sherlock/John in number of fanworks on the AO3. At that time it had only 15,307 works.[10] As of December 2017, the Castiel/Dean Winchester tag contained over 69,000 fanworks; it has surpassed Sherlock/John and is the single most popular ship on the archive.[11][12] However, according to centrumlumina, although Destiel still reigns supreme in total archive works, the period August 2016-August 2017 saw more activity in the Yuri Katsuki/Victor Nikiforov tag.[13][14] According to the 2019 AO3 Ship Stats Destiel still has the most fics on the archive[15] Destiel fans, and Supernatural fans in general, are also prolific in their participation in challenges, such as big bangs and gift exchanges, and AO3's interface makes it easy to make collections, which may also explain some of the reason for the popularity of AO3 over other archives.

Queerbaiting or Canon?

Fans have reacted very badly when any of the characters have romance with women.

Chad Kennedy's Twitter account blew up after he said that the producers had not intended for either Dean or Castiel to be bisexual. He clarified that he did not write the show; that no one had pitched him an episode in which the male leads had romance with one another; but that he would not rule it out if such a script did come to him.[16] Meanwhile, Supernatural's writers engage in a certain amount of references, jokes and teasing about the characters' orientations and relationships. Fans and professional media critics whose goal is to engage in serious dialogue and activism supporting gay rights and visibility identify these jokes or hints as queerbaiting, rather than as lighthearted ship-teasing in recognition of slash fan viewers. [17]

Misha Collins, who portrays Castiel, has done his part to fan the flames by making unsubstantiated statements at conventions such as "Destiel is canon and the writers know it,"[18] However, Collins does not feel that the Ship tease seen on the show is homophobic. In a 2014 interview with members of the Organization for Transformative Works, he clarified

I don’t like the characterization of teasing around Destiel or around any kind of homoerotic subtext that might appear around the brothers or whatever as queer baiting. I think that that’s really unfair. Because I don’t think that – well, first of all that’s sort of a new and strange term to me, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on. I also don’t think that same kind of aspersion would be cast toward someone who is teasing a heterosexual relationship, like the tension that builds between two male and female series regular characters on any given show that’s never consummated. I understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t think it’s a fair characterization either. [19]

On 2013, fans attending the Supernatural New Jersey Convention reported witnessing Jensen Ackles somewhat rudely dismissing questions about Castiel and Dean's relationship from a woman who identified herself as bisexual. She was also booed by audience members for her inquiry and was later found crying. Aja Romano covered this for the Daily Dot, pointing out that the speculation in question was not solely created by fans, but by the show itself, which along with a hefty amount of queerbaiting seems to convey a lot of contempt for fans who support the idea either of Castiel and Dean, or of Dean and Sam, having romance.[20] (Article was first published on May 6, 2013)

Season 15

Season 15 was the final season of SPN, giving us Destielgate and the fandom resurgence known as SPN Season 16, which included the Destiel Wedding.

Tropes & Fanon

Common tropes explored in fanfic include curse!fic and time travel.

There are some common themes in fic that are specific to this particular pairing:

  • Teaching Cas: Dean introducing Castiel to human things, activities and pop culture.
  • Sam: Sam acting as matchmaker for Dean and Castiel.
  • Wingfic: because Cas is an angel, there is a great deal of wing related fanworks, these may include wing kink, where Cas' wings are erogenous zones, or non-sexual interactions, like Dean helping to groom Cas' wings. There are also rarer fics where Dean somehow obtains wings of his own.
  • Trueform and alternate!vessel fic: Castiel uses a human vessel and has never been seen on-screen as himself (except for shadows of his wings). There are fanworks that explore trueform!Castiel, as well as the possibility of Castiel having alternate vessels.
  • Jimmy Novak: The presence of Jimmy in Dean/Castiel fic brings in issues of consent if Dean and Castiel are to have a sexual relationship. Most common options to deal with this in fic are: Jimmy gives his consent, Jimmy deliberately not giving his consent, Jimmy being suppressed and unaware of what Dean and Castiel are doing, or Jimmy being dead and the body belonging entirely to Castiel. The last trope became prevalent in fics set or written after 5.01 Lucifer Rising where Castiel's human body is remade by God after having been exploded by an archangel, and this theory was later confirmed in canon.
  • Hand Print: In episode 4.01 Lazarus Rising that introduces Castiel, Dean is shown having a handprint on his shoulder that is later explained to be Castiel's hand when he "gripped [Dean] tight and raised [him] from perdition".[21] This handprint is one of the persistent tropes in Dean/Castiel fic, and is sometimes depicted as evidence of a tangible or magical bond between the characters.
  • Endverse: Episode 5.04 The End shows a possible apocalyptic future where the world has been overrun by Lucifer's army and humanity is only surviving in small patches. This future sometimes referred to as "End-verse", "2014-verse" or "Croat-verse", features Dean having become the tough-as-nails leader of the resistance and a human Castiel that has changed greatly from present-day Castiel. There are Dean/Castiel fics set in that future that explore this relationship.
  • Hurt/Comfort: Hurt Dean and Cas providing the comfort is slightly more popular, however, Hurt Cas is also common
  • Top/Bottom Dynamics: Top Castiel/Bottom Dean tends to be the most popular, however their are quite a few fans that prefer Bottom Castiel, and will try and encourage fanworks that feature that dynamic, see the Bottom Cas Big Bang as an example
  • Human Castiel: these fanworks tend to fall into two categories, ones where Cas was an angel and has somehow become human, or AUs where Cas has always been human
  • Kid!fic: Dean and Cas somehow becoming parents, this may be from accidental baby acquisition, or through some sort of magical intervention. After the introduction of Jack, it was not unusual to find stories where Cas and Dean were raising Jack together
  • Alpha/Beta/Omega: having Dean be an omega and Cas being an alpha seems to be slightly more popular, however, it is not at all unusual to find that dynamic reversed.
  • Alternate universes: AU fanworks are very popular in Dean/Castiel circles, some common AU settings are:
    • High School AU: where Dean and Cas meet in high school, or are childhood friends who are exploring romantic feelings for the first time
    • Mundane AU: where there are no supernatural elements, Cas has always been human, and Dean and Cas meet under conventional circumstances. Popular jobs for Dean in mundane AUs are usually mechanic or bartender, choices for Cas' career very greatly, from teacher, librarian, accountant, to barista, among many others.
    • Fairy Tale AU: stories based on, or inspired by, fairy tales. Having Dean or Cas be a Prince that is looking for a partner or rescues the other are both common story tropes
  • Threesome or Poly: the most popular choice for a third partner being Sam (Wincestiel). However, there is also some triad fics featuring Benny (Destiny) or Jimmy Novak (Deanjimstiel).

Example Fanworks







  • As Long As It Takes is a parody of Blank Space, the text is changed so it's about Castiel and Dean's relationship from Castiel's perspective.
  • Destiel by Beth Jo is an original song apparently being sung from Castiel's perspective.
  • Hey There Dean is a parody of Hey There Delilah, the text is changed so it's about Castiel and Dean's relationship from Sam's perspective.

Example Art Gallery

Meta and Ship Manifestos


















Other Resources



  1. ^ Super-Wiki's Castiel page has many more details.
  2. ^ The deancastiel profile puts the creation date at 2008-09-19, the episode aired on 2008-09-18.
  3. ^ Dean/Castiel - Super-wiki, Archived version
  4. ^ "Most Reblogged Ships". Archived from the original on 2015-08-20. post in Tumblr Year In Review 2 December 2014. Sam/Dean was not even listed in the top 20, though it's possible that "wincest" was not one of the ships searched on; the process for determining "most reblogged" was not disclosed.
  5. ^ On 23 March 2017, AO3's works search function returned 13560 works for Destiel vs. only 3871 posted for Sam/Dean in 2016. Tumblr user marmolita's programmatic method showed Destiel was the most popular AO3 ship with 11,548 works. The discrepancy might be caused by the date posted vs. the date last updated (what the works search query actually return?). "some AO3 fandom stats for 2016". Archived from the original on 2017-04-24. by marmolita, 22 March 2017.
  6. ^ after Larry Stylinson and Dan and Phil. Tumblr 2015 Year in Review: Most Reblogged Ships, archived.
  7. ^ "2016's Top Ships". Archived from the original on 2017-02-16.
  8. ^ Misha Collins Tweeted About Destiel Fanfiction, And The Sound You Hear Is All Of Tumblr Screaming, Buzzfeed article, August 10 2021.
  9. ^ exorcisingemily. Debunking Myth and Correcting Fandom Misconceptions: Destiel in SPN Family, blog post October 26, 2013. In a follow-up post, the blogger noted that one anti-Destiel fan had commented on the original post under 26 names to create the illusion that their opinion was widespread.
  10. ^ centrumlumina. "A ranked list of the most popular relationship tags on AO3". Archived from the original on 2015-08-08., posted to tumblr 17th August 2013.
  11. ^ Fanwork counts taken from the AO3 tag pages on August 8, 2015: Sherlock Holmes/John Watson as 41,080 works vs. 44,812 Castiel/Dean Winchester works. Note that due to metatag structure on the archive, the Sherlock/John tag actually includes all Sherlock Holmes canons, including Elementary's Joan/Sherlock. AO3 also skews toward recently active fandoms, as well as Western media and live-action fandoms, and some of the largest fandoms on the archive actually have ensemble casts, so none of their ships can match the dominance of the few Supernatural ships.
  12. ^ "Summer is here again, so it's time for the 2015 AO3 Ship Stats". Archived from the original on 2015-07-11.
  13. ^ AO3 Ship Stats 2017: Overall Top 100, Archived version, tumblr post by centrumlumina, 3rd August 2017.
  14. ^ AO3 Ship Stats 2017: This Year's Top 100, Archived version, tumblr post by centrumlumina, 3rd August 2017.
  15. ^ "AO3 Ship Stats 2019". Archived from the original on 2019-07-27.
  16. ^ "Regarding Chad Kennedy at The Fandom Debunker, October 23, 2013". Archived from the original on 2013-10-27.
  17. ^ Supernatural Has a Queerbaiting Problem That Needs to Stop. TV Guide, November 17, 2014.
  18. ^ See tenoko1, Per Misha Collins: Destiel is Canon. October 29, 2012 (dead link). Collins made these statements at the Supernatural convention in Chicago on that date. Among Collins' statements: "misha confirmed jeremy carver was gonna resolve cas and dean’s relationship later in the season." He didn't.
  19. ^ Fandom, Passion and Supernatural: A Chat With Misha Collins. Fangasm, April 7, 2014.
  20. ^ Aja Romano, How 1 question triggered a "Supernatural" fandom meltdown. Daily Dot, March 2, 2020.
  21. ^> Lazarus Rising at SupernaturalWiki
  22. ^ archive link